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Introduction to the Project on Bioethics for Informed Choices - page 5 / 115





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Bioethics Education535

strategies students themselves will use. The more control students have over decisions related to tasks and how they might go about them, the greater is their ownership and therefore strength of the motivational power of the activity. There is also evidence that management problems are decreased and student learning is enhanced when students assume greater levels of control over their own learning (Roth and Roychoudhury, 1993).

Facilitating group work and discussions

There is much evidence to suggest that using group work helps students learn (Johnson & Johnson, 1994). Promoting cooperation in group work has been reported to produce a positive effect on self-esteem and students more frequently, and more strongly express feelings of belonging and being supported (Slavin, 1985, 1995). The quality of dialogue during these interactions is central to good and effective learning. Therefore, the teacher’s role is to promote meaningful dialogue amongst the group(s).

In group work, teachers would be expected initially to give an introduction about what is required to the whole class. The support and supervision role of groups as they work, involves the teacher allowing students to take charge of the group’s direction while supervising from a distance. New kinds of thinking can be encouraged by asking questions, providing feedback on group progress and insisting that groups work together to achieve the outcome, rather than telling them the answers. The teacher gradually reduces the amount of guidance given to students (Cohen, 1994). Occasionally, as needed, the teacher may stop group work for brief periods, to re-orient the students or remind them of appropriate learning behaviours.

During whole class or small group discussions, the teacher can enable students to build on their existing knowledge by focusing, reporting, consolidating or presenting a thoughtful argument (Jones and Kirk, 1990). Student interaction provides a great deal of diagnostic information for the teacher about what students know and do not know. This information can be used to base the next educational experience (e.g. provide another question, scenario or review the topic).

Focusing can include giving direction for activities, setting time limits, setting deadlines for completion of tasks, pacing activities, signalling the need to move on, generating interest, directing attention to important features of the discussion, asking higher order questions and waiting for answers. It may also involve active listening to enhance understanding, encourage students to identify prejudice, identify lack of sound reasoning or lack of evidence or irrelevance.

Reporting may involve acting as critic and discussion leader as students report their findings to the class. When students disagree, the teacher can show support and acceptance by ensuring that challenges to views deal with issues and argument and do not attack the person.

Consolidating involves prompting an awareness of prior knowledge and revising to develop the topic. This will involve encouraging participation and maintaining accountability within the group- making sure everyone remains on task, avoiding fragmentation into 'leaders and led' and finding working procedures that are goal- oriented without being overly restrictive or directive. When addressing issues education, teachers are often expected by students to present a thoughtful argument, and respond critically to students’ arguments. Students want to know what the teachers think (Van Rooy, 1993).

Fostering independent learning

Independent learning helps students to internalise content material. The role of the teacher is to prompt or cue students to ask questions about what they need to find out and what they need to do to research or collate their ideas. Independent learning may be a new way of learning for some students and they may not be accustomed to being given the responsibility to make decisions about their own learning. The amount of guidance given to students by teachers is always a professional decision. Too much guidance may interfere with the development of students' thought processes, act to frustrate problem solving and lead to premature closure. Too little guidance may result in unsatisfactory progress by students resulting in frustration or alienation (Conner, 2002).

General teaching strategies that will help students to be more self-directed include:

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